Friday, April 13, 2012

Lovely May Flowers (April theme: April Showers)

The writing life is full of April showers that bring May flowers—those tough times you have to live through that ultimately blossom into something unexpected. Here are some of mine:

I submitted a picture-book manuscript for critique to an editor at an SCBWI conference. She liked it but didn’t love it. I was her last critique of the day, and as we were leaving the room, she asked, “Are you working on anything else?” I told her about my work in progress, and she politely said, “That sounds interesting.” When I finished the manuscript a year later I sent it to her with a cover letter that started, “Since you expressed interest in this project . . . ” (She didn’t; I swear she was merely being courteous!) That turned into my first published novel, Anna of Byzantium.

The editor of that first novel was scathing about my second, saying things that nearly made me quit writing. At the urging of my critique group and against my will, I resubmitted it to different editors, a total of 23 times. No. 24 took it; Cold in Summer got good reviews and some nice awards, is still selling nine years later, and I’ve had a wonderful relationship with that editor ever since. She’s published a total of eight of my novels now.

But she doesn’t take everything. I had a completed manuscript that I loved, and she didn’t. Her reasons for not liking it were persuasive, so I abandoned it, but I’ve plundered that sucker for characters, scenes, descriptions, conflicts that I’ve used successfully in other books.

I wrote about fifty pages on a manuscript set in the Viking age. My editor and agent liked it a lot and urged me to complete it. I won the SCBWI Work-in-Progress grant for it. But I just can’t write the story—I can’t relate to the Vikings, no matter how much research I do on them. But I love the character and her situation, so I’ve re-set the story in the Mediterranean world, which is much more familiar to me, and have almost completed it. Will it be successful? That remains to be seen, but I’m having a wonderful time writing it.

Every rejection or negative review hurts, but sometimes the payoff is better than the original goal.


  1. My first book was rejected over eighty times. On the first round of submission, though, I did get an editor so interested in the concept that he called me (!). I was crushed when he didn't take it, but am so glad now he didn't--the book just wasn't ready yet. Period. It took all that rejection to finally GET it ready.

  2. So true, Holly, and so hard to believe except in hindsight!